Shuffle Everything – Vol. 6

We go full on Warpaint overload this week, not on purpose, mind. I have to make the heartbreaking decision between two of their best songs. It was like picking which is your favourite child, and I probably shouldn’t have done it.

Wall Watcher – Sunflower Bean

I can safely say that now Sunflower Bean have actually released a debut album, I like their softer songs. ‘Easier Said’ is one of the best songs of the year, ‘I Want You To Give Me Enough Time’ is heavenly. I remember hearing ‘Wall Watcher’ and being mildly interested in the album after hearing ‘Tame Impala’ on repeat for so long. It’s the heavier side of the band with fuzzed out guitar lines and buzzing bass. Julia Cumming takes over the vocal side, and though the chorus is infuriatingly catchy, it’s a bit plain. I think the handclaps that come along in the last half of the song are fun, and it’s interesting how they managed to marry that heaviness from the guitar with their poppier side that bursts out in colours on ‘Easier Said’

Joyce And Lonnie Fighting – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein (Stranger Things)

Recently I’ve enjoyed hearing songs from TV and film and trying to find them online, and I’m especially interested if it’s an original score – try ‘Macbeth’ and ‘The Child Pt. 1’ from the Macbeth soundtrack, it’s like Godspeed You! Black Emperor minus guitars.  But everyone got a kick out of the Stranger Things soundtrack from Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. You could pick any track from the soundtrack and be transported to a small town in 80s America, probably fighting aliens/monsters. The track is creepy and subtle, building to a climax that never occurs, but leaves you hanging. Let’s hope the duo nail the soundtrack for the second season.

Burgundy – Warpaint

love Warpaint, you may have noticed, or maybe not. I think their new album is the best thing they’ve done since the EP that ‘Burgundy’ appeared on, Exquisite Corpse. The song itself is also exquisite, resting on Jenny Lee Lindberg’s pulsing bass and a repeated guitar line that twinkles. The production is a little weird and kind of muddied up, so when the guitar enters at the beginning it sounds like someone’s put a pillow over the top of it. I have no idea if it was intended or not, but it helps when the bass enters, because your heart just melts completely. It’s fun to see how far Warpaint have come from ‘Burgundy’ to Heads Up, but whatever they do I’m going to defend to the death so they could make a rap-gospel album and I’d love it. Has anyone made a rap-gospel album before? The only thing I can think of is when Kanye said Pablo was, but only ‘Ultralight Beam’ was, and that was pretty amazing.

Red Right Hand – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

I cannot hear this song without thinking of Peaky Blinders. It’s a great show, but Jesus, they played this song to death. They even got PJ Harvey to cover it; never a bad idea. It’s the most well-known Nick Cave song, I remember the first time I heard it in the Jim Carrey movie Dumb And Dumber. There’s a reason everyone knows it, it’s pure undiluted Cave. Think of backwater America, looming vampires and murder and that’s what ‘Red Right Hand’ sounds like. The bell toll still sends shivers.

Warpaint – Warpaint

Oh hell. I was so happy Warpaint came along at least once, and now I’m going to have to choose between the two. The self-titled track came along a bit later than ‘Burgundy’, but has the similar post-punky vibe as that song. ‘Warpaint’ takes the crown though, purely because Warpaint had a release under their belt at this point and had a stable and talented drummer in Stella Mozgawa, who contributes to the explosion of sound around the 2 minute mark as well as bringing in a dancey swing that guided them towards the sound that they’re playing with now. The drums are mostly unaffected by the guitar-effect-swirl, which should sound weird but instead you get to focus on crisp drums or those twin winding guitars. By the time ‘Warpaint’ was released, Warpaint were the formidable team we now have.

Best Of The Week?

‘Warpaint’. I nearly did tried to remove Warpaint from the best-of-the-week equation mostly because they were going to top it out regardless, but I’m not a huge fan of ‘Wall Watcher’, the Stranger Things track is over way too son and I’ve heard ‘Red Right Hand’ way too much. ‘Warpaint’ works in so many layers, just listen to how Mozgawa goes crazy towards the end of the track.

Everything So Far – 2016’s Best Albums (So Far)

radiohead-new-album-a-moon-shaped-pool-download-stream-640x640A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

Well, it was bound to happen, really. The best thing Radiohead could have done to meet the huge hype was to not do what was expected, or what was not expected. Think of it as a semi-sequel to Hail To The Thief and In Rainbows, effortlessly combining the acoustic and electronic elements that they’ve polarised so often and making songs that don’t directly say anything, but are subtle both lyrically and instrumentally. Saying less and making less noise might look like a cop-out, but they do so much with that new space. The roles of the Greenwood brothers are amplified, from Colin’s bass input on ‘Identikit’ and ‘Decks Dark’ to Jonny’s work on film soundtracks being translated to ‘Burn The Witch’ and ‘The Numbers’.

Listen To: Daydreaming

SAVAGES_ADORE_LIFE_Cover_grandeAdore Life – Savages

In response to the tight and tense music that their debut album showed off, Savages got louder and covered a topic that not many would associate with moody post-punk – Love. But the way Jehnny Beth sang about it; it was like a horror film with the murderer always around the corner ready to pounce. It was monolithic and feared, and even when it was accepted, it was on her own terms. A unique perspective only matched by the jackhammer bass and drums of Ayşe Hassan and Fay Milton.

Listen To: Adore

a3933351475_10Rot Forever – Sioux Falls

One of the most enjoyable debuts to come out so far this year, Sioux Falls went overboard on their 72-minute first impression. It had more than a whiff of Modest Mouse, but frontman Isaac Eiger specifically mentions making Modest Mouse mixtapes in highlight ‘In Case It Gets Lost’. It’s clumsy, chaotic rock music that spills over usual time limits and restrictions into making an album that matches Eiger’s lyrics. Plus, the drumming is great.

Listen To: In Case It Gets Lost

a0138284876_10Human Ceremony – Sunflower Bean

‘Easier Said’ is Sunflower Bean’s best song, yet it’s unlike any other. On ‘2013’, ‘I Was Home’ and ‘Creation Myth’ they blend hard rock with psychedelic music, but on ‘Easier Said’ it’s a pretty little pop song with Julia Cumming, bassist, leading the vocals instead of the band’s other vocalist, Nick Kivlen. It was probably a coincidence that Human Ceremony and Leave Me Alone by Hinds arrived around the same time, but both of those albums were genuinely surprising for debuts by bands that had been pegged into a certain sound. Apparently Sunflower Bean are good live as well, and they refuse to stop touring, so give them a go.

Listen To: Easier Said

mothers-when-walk-long-distance-new-albumWhen You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired – Mothers

Mothers continue the flow of folk/singer-songwriters around right now, from Angel Olsen, Eskimeaux and Frankie Cosmos. It originated as a solo project from Kristine Leschper, but the full band backing gives ‘It Hurts Until It Doesn’t’ and ‘Hold Your Own Hand’ a life beyond quiet folk. Leschper’s voice is the centrepoint; an emotive and sharp performance that aims for the heart like any good folk music.

Listen To: Too Small For Eyes

todTeens of Denial – Car Seat Headrest

Here’s an underdog story waiting to happen. Will Toledo makes loads of Bandcamp albums and gets a record deal with Matador, puts out a compilation of his best tracks so far and then, on his first Matador album of original material, makes one of the best albums of the year (not without some copyright issues along the way). It might sound a bit like the resurrection of peak-Stephen Malkmus, but Toledo’s relentless self-referencing, concepts and dry humour are just what indie-rock needs to sound important.

Listen To: Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales

d5a30e2eHuman Performance – Parquet Courts

You could be worried about Parquet Courts easing into their cynical comfort zone, but Human Performance took some of the pressure off lead vocalist Andrew Savage and gave more time to the other band members. The extended jams mostly went out the window, and in came the Velvet Underground and country-tinged indie-rock, something that Parquet Courts always hinted at but never fully captured. They’re finally where they should be.

Listen To: Berlin Got Blurry

beyonce-new-album-lemonade-download-free-stream-640x640Lemonade – Beyoncé

No doubt an album that will be on many peoples’ year-end list already, Beyoncé topped her self-titled fourth album by heaping on more of that artistry and auteurism that Rihanna and Zayn Malik have hopped on. Beyoncé didn’t forget to leave out the big songs with ‘Hold Up’ and ‘Sorry’, but it’s the narrative that many came for. It became clear that Lemonade was about a break-up, whether that was a story or reality is yet to be known, but it made for a compelling arc. You could follow the story whilst listening to the best pop music right now. It’s the reason that mainstream and underground and becoming increasingly blurred.

Listen To: All Night

Leave-Me-Alone-575x575Leave Me Alone – Hinds

A record that should have been released in summer instead arrived in chilly January to start the year off strong. We were worried that Hinds were one-trick-ponies but when ‘Solar Gap’, ‘And I Will Send Your Flowers Back’ and ‘Warts’ came along with the hits it proved us wrong. It’s music to put on with the sun shining and not worrying if that verse was a bit awkward or they can sing pitch-perfect. Perhaps it’s the isolation from the self-appointed indie-rock headquarters of the UK or US, but Spain is looking pretty special right now with Mourn and Hinds spearheading some great rock music.

Listen To: Garden

Album Review – Human Ceremony / Sunflower Bean

a0138284876_10It now takes a certain amount of bravery to accept the cliches of rock music within underground music and can often lead to a backlash of ‘Led Zeppelin did this years ago’. It’s an old joke, but the sarcastic ‘The indie is mainstream now so mainstream must be indie’ might actually apply to the classic rock and pop characteristics that Sunflower Bean deploy on Human Ceremony. But the difference is, the do it well. There’s elements of Captured-Tracks-Dream-Pop bleeding in, especially on ‘2013’ and ‘Easier Said’ as well as the hard-rock influences that follow Nick Kivlen, Julia Cumming and Jacob Faber everywhere on ‘Wall Watcher’ and ‘I Was Home’. It might be another case of the trendy New York band who dress impeccably that make any criticism unimportant in the face of good pop songs (Think of Sunflower Bean as the children of Sonic Youth and the Strokes). They have an effortless cool, which pretty much comes with the tag of ‘New York’, but it isn’t the cool which makes Human Ceremony such a good listen, it’s some solid writing.

The most noticeable absence is the thick sludgy rock which their early singles delivered. ‘Tame Impala’, most likely everyone’s first experience of Sunflower Bean, is absent, and the noisy outro to the original ‘I Want You To Give Me Enough Time’ single is missing completely. Considering how good that song was originally, it’s a shame that it cuts off so abruptly, but there’s some pockets of Human Ceremony which will hopefully satisfy any Black Sabbath fan. ‘Wall Watcher’ is as heavy as they come, locking into a psychedelic groove with Julia Cumming, bassist, taking the vocal reins over Nick Kivlen, who often shares lines through heavy effects on his voice. We didn’t exactly like ‘Wall Watcher’ as it arrived as a single, but the song is definitely a grower and the handclap-assisted chorus is catchy and creepy at the same time. Cumming’s vocals suit the dreamier songs, but there’s no ‘Tame Impala’-esque screamer for her to really explode vocally. The lyrics are suitably space and religion-obsessed, which lends itself to this ’60s-ish lyrical style which is a refreshing set of themes as everyone wants to hear about aliens. Where are all the alien songs, musicians?

One of those alien songs is ‘Space Exploration Disaster’, which meshes together the hard-rock and dream-pop elements as Kivlen murmurs ‘Float away from the planet’ and opens with ‘In the year 2013 / No-one can hear you scream’, which is a funny contrast to the usual space-loneliness cliche in exchange for an even lonelier place – Earth. Often Sunflower Bean have some creepy lyrics like the one just mentioned hiding in the darker corners of Human Ceremony, such as the ‘always-watching’ of ‘Wall Watcher’ or the title track, which Nick Kivlen said was what aliens would call our lives if they saw us in a recent interview. Sometimes, the simpler tracks just work much better, which is a pleasant surprise after thinking that Sunflower Bean couldn’t do anything other than psych-rock. ‘Human Ceremony’ or the excellent ‘Easier Said’ allow Sunflower Bean to explore a more dream-pop sound with simpler lyrics like ‘It’s not your fault / And that’s ok / Easier said than done’, which shows that Sunflower don’t have to be talking about aliens and stomping on the distortion pedal to succeed. It’s easily one of our favourite songs of 2016 so far.

There was always the chance that Sunflower Bean wouldn’t live up to the hype, and the point that Human Ceremony isn’t underwhelming might be to do with the British music press not having too much access to the band and thus hyping them up (Think Peace for the case in point). It’s just a really good debut that isn’t a spur of the moment trend-release, but Sunflower Bean have taken their time to tighten up their playing and songwriting. They aren’t afraid of making a song about aliens, the future or religion (Often all in the same song) and they aren’t afraid to stick a guitar solo on a song. The most assured debut since Wolf Alice’s My Love Is Cool.

8

Funnel Recommends: Human Ceremony / 2013 / Easier Said

Track Review – Easier Said / Sunflower Bean

So far, Sunflower Bean’s pre-Human Ceremony teasers have been hit or miss. ‘Wall Watcher’ was a watery fuzz-rock song and ‘I Hear Voices’ (technically a single) worked in its moments when Julia Cumming relies on her shouting vocals over the dream-pop softness that mostly makes up her vocal contribution. On ‘Easier Said’, its no different that she uses her softer side vocally, but it works in tandem with the DIIV/Cure shoegaze that they deploy. Previously, Sunflower Bean have blurred between hard rock and shoegaze, but on ‘Easier Said’, it’s very clear what the band are trying to achieve, and it’s the freshest thing they’ve made since ‘2013’, an early single and highlight.

Between the shimmery guitars that cut through the song on the chorus and the rippling crash cymbals Cumming sings ‘Easier said than done / I heard you right the first time’ and ‘It’s not your fault / and that’s ok’ as they explore a relatively innocent topic of feeling emotions that can’t be described no matter how much you want to try and explain them. Sunflower Bean say to someone that it’s not their fault they can’t understand what they mean, it’s just the way that it is. It could come off as just another example of shoegaze imagery, but Sunflower Bean toe the line between too much information and too little, filling in the rest with blissful instrumentation. While it may lean a little too heavily on influences, at least ‘Easier Said’ can’t draw the Led Zeppelin comparisons.

Track Review – Wall Watcher / Sunflower Bean

Sunflower Bean have never been overly aggressive (Unless we’re talking Julia Cumming and Nick Kivlen’s vocal duel on ‘Tame Impala’) but ‘Wall Watcher’ is easily the least energy they’ve ever been. For a band who are prepping their new album (out February) and heavily touring all of 2015, they sound remarkably drained of life compared to the early tracks that spilled out. Everything’s here – an overblown guitar line and a dark, brooding bass, but everything else is utterly limp.

Julia Cumming’s vocals, initially a selling point for the band, don’t raise beyond a softer tone, which could work for a softer song, but this is an immediate single. The lyrics are forgettable and repetitive, but the chorus is definitely the catchiest part of the song, but Cumming’s vocals are so drenched in effects that her voice sounds like the rest of the background instrumentation. For a band that made Led Zeppelin idolisation cool again, Sunflower Bean have done a pretty good job of penning themselves into the classic rock corner and not leaving much room for themselves to carve a position.

Track Review – The Stalker / Sunflower Bean

‘The Stalker’ is the best song so far by Sunflower Bean. It has their most Sabbath-ish elements since ‘Tame Impala’ came out and is more hard-hitting than the soon-to-be-released A-Side ‘I Hear Voices’. Like the best Sunflower Bean songs, it features both the stoner vocals of Nick Kivlen and the ethereal/shrieking vocals of Julia Cumming. As you can tell from the title, it’s about a stalker ‘Dark figure dressed in white / disappeared into the night’. However, the best moments come went the instrumentals take over from the vocals.

The band undoubtedly have a knack for conjuring up the hard rock sounds of the 70s, with the lead riff sounding like the lovechild of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, though you’ve heard this all before. It’s been repeated that this band are the saviours of rock, though it’s mostly been tied to their skills when knocking out a riff or two. Unfortunately, they haven’t been focussed on as an original approach to rock music. Like their contemporaries Tame Impala, they take psychedelic tendencies in the vocals and layers upon layers of effects to carve out their own sound in what is an overflooded genre teeming with acid-chugging kids in tie-dyed t-shirts. Imagine if Tame Impala decided to make a rock album after Lonerism, and you might be close to ‘The Stalker’.

Track Review – I Hear Voices / Sunflower Bean

Sunflower Bean have recently been up on the lists of hype bands. They combine Led-Zeppelin heaviness with Tame Impala’s new wave of psychedelia which everyone can’t get enough of at the minute. The dual attack of Nick Kivlen’s stoner-ish vocals and Julia Cumming’s ethereal-one-minute-shrieking-the-next combines into a pummelling track which condenses the jamming of earlier tracks ‘Tame Impala’ and ‘Rock & Rock Heathen’. If anything, they’ve scaled back on the sudden bursts into thick Sabbath-like riffs and made the track easier to digest. It’s not pop, though, so don’t expect any Tame Impala synths any time soon.

The meat and bones of the track is the drumming, which is criminally underrated as the psychedelic guitars and bass compete for dominance. There’s something very talented about drummer Jacob Faber when he can merge from the jazz-like jam segments to all-out rocking. Cumming’s thick, dirty basslines are immediately apparent. If anything, the only instrument which can’t compete with the rhythm section is the guitar, which has a tendency to bleed into the chorus and only shines through on the bridge. The lyrics are mostly weird and wild, from the repeated chorus ‘I hear voices / I hear voices’ and the repetitive verses sung by Kivlen, but hey, isn’t all rock just regurgitated riffs?